All along the watchtower

Hello from Beijing.

I’m in China for roughly the next two weeks on a fellowship with five other American journalists. The trip, sponsored by the East-West Center and the Better Hong Kong Foundation, is focused on the impacts of the trade war on this region. Today was our first full day in Beijing. After a breakfast of what was the best congee I’ve ever had, we went to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

There’s so much to say about it all, but one thing I found remarkable was the number of cameras everywhere. Surveillance is palpable here. Take, for example, Zhengyangmen. The ornate watchtower, built in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, looms powerfully over Tiananmen Square. But rather than watching the mountains for invaders, it’s now bristling with security cameras.

It was a similar scene at Mutianyu, a stretch of the Great Wall that now watches for the hordes of people coming 44 miles from Beijing

Green New Feels

Reporting on climate change is bleak. It’s made worse by how divorced policy proposals are from the increasingly dire scientific projections. At a time when fossil fuel emissions are hitting all-time highs, storms and wildfires break records, and species are going extinct at a rate of up to 150 per day.  

The issue, generally, is that climate change is an economic problem for which legislators and regulators offer environmental solutions. This is exacerbated by partisan polarization over the basic science. On one end, you have conservatives who -- prodded by industries who have the most to lose from ending fossil fuel use -- call the very nature of global warming and its causes into question. On the other are liberals who claim to take the threat of planetary catastrophe seriously, then propose things like cap-and-trade or a carbon tax, policies that are proven to be unpopular and insufficient to reduce greenhouse gases at the rate required to halt or even slow warming. I say “conservatives” and “liberals” because there are plenty of Democrats in the former camp, and a handful of Republicans in the latter.

But there’s some movement on this front. A growing number of progressives and socialists running as Democrats in the 2018 midterms are calling for a Green New Deal. The term vaguely defines a policy of massive public investment to create renewable energy and weatherization jobs while dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. New polling out on Thursday showed why that may be part of a winning electoral strategy.

The survey, commissioned by the progressive think tank Data for Progress and the environmental groups Sunrise Movement and 350 Action, found 55 percent of eligible American voters support federal funding for guaranteed employment. But the percentage of voters who opposed the policy decreased from 23 percent to 18 percent when those guaranteed jobs are green.

Read more about that here.

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Exxon Mobil is making good inroads in Beijing. On Friday, Li Keqiang, the premier of China’s state council, praised the oil giant’s plans to build a petrochemical plant in Huizhou, a city on the country’s industrial southeast coast.

"China welcomes the construction of a large ExxonMobil petrochemical plant on the Chinese territory,” he said. “We hope that foreign enterprises, including ExxonMobil, will take advantage of the opportunity to develop cooperation with China based on market rules and basic trade principles.”

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CrossFit guy and very good smiler Donald Trump Jr. will be a special guest at the North Dakota Petroleum Institute from Sept. 24-26.

The president’s son will speak about “unleashing America’s economy” on Sept. 25, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

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Michigan’s government has another potential water problem. Gov. Rick Snyder (R ) is still reeling from the water crisis in Flint. Now the governor is trying to ram through a deal with Ebridge to extend Line 5, a pipeline that would carry up to 23 million gallons of oil a day through the Mackinac Straits. Environmentalists say it’s a “lame duck governor” putting crucial drinking water at risk.

And with that, I’m going to have to cut the fifth edition of This Anthropogenic Life short, because I’m so jetlagged and tired right now my eyes are closing as I type. Expect more as the week goes on. Thank you as always, and email me at